Agenda and draft minutes

Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Tuesday, 15 September 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Online only

Contact: Kirsty Hunt  01344 353108

Link: This meeting will be held online

Media

Items
Note No. Item

COUNCILLOR VIRGO IN THE CHAIR

None

22.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 147 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 12 August 2020.

Minutes:

Subject to the following amendment:

·       Minute 18: ‘Councillor Tullett declared a pecuniary interest in item 5’ be amended to read ‘an affected interest’. 

 

RESOLVED that, subject to the above amendment, the minutes of the Commission held on 12 August 2020 be approved as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.

None

23.

Declarations of Interest and Party Whip

Members are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interests and the nature of that interest, including the existence and nature of the party whip, in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.

 

Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.

 

Any Member with an Affected Interest in a matter must disclose the interest to the meeting.  There is no requirement to withdraw from the meeting when the interest is only an affected interest, but the Monitoring Officer should be notified of the interest, if not previously notified of it, within 28 days of the meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made.

 

There were no indications that members would be participating while under the party whip.

None

24.

Urgent Items of Business

Any other items which, pursuant to Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman decides are urgent.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

25.

Public Participation

To receive submissions from members of the public which have been submitted in advance in accordance with the Council’s Public Participation Scheme for Overview and Scrutiny.

Minutes:

No submissions had been made by members of the public under the Council’s Public Participation Scheme for Overview and Scrutiny. The Vice-Chairman encouraged members of the public to send questions on the agenda items to commitee@bracknell-forest.gov.uk.

26.

Local Government Reorganisation

Councillor Bettison OBE, Leader of the Council has been invited to join the meeting to discuss the potential implications for Bracknell Forest Council. This will be discussed in closed session as, whilst this is speculative, there will be likely disclosure of the financial or business affairs of the authority.

 

In preparation for this item Members may wish to read the following information:

 

Local Government Association annual conference 2020: Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government's speech announcing intention to publish white paper on devolution and local recovery

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/local-government-association-annual-conference-2020-minister-for-regional-growth-and-local-governments-speech

 

 

Local Government Chronicle re. government’s plans to create unitaries with populations of at least 300,000 to 400,000

https://www.lgcplus.com/politics/devolution-and-economic-growth/clarke-devo-white-paper-will-bring-more-mayors-and-more-unitaries-29-06-2020/

 

 

Article in the Observer:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/13/why-does-no-10-want-to-devolve-local-councils-just-as-they-are-needed-most

 

 

Municipal Journal - https://www.themj.co.uk/Reorganisation#

Lots of articles about different councils including York, Cumbria, Gloucestershire. Some have already developed plans to allow them to set up a large unitary authority.

 

 

County Councils Network - https://www.countycouncilsnetwork.org.uk/fairer-future-for-counties/

Article about how funding and restructure change will be a complete overhaul of local government.

 

 

Browne/Jacobson – working on behalf of the northern powerhouse authorities - https://www.brownejacobson.com/-/media/files/pdf-documents/government-sector/guide-to-local-government-re-organisation

Guide to local government re-organisation which touches on all sorts of logistical issues such as property transfer, finances, etc.

Minutes:

The Chairman advised the meeting that he had reordered the agenda so that the first discussion item would be Local Government Reorganisation followed by Budget scrutiny - financial update.

 

Councillor Bettison OBE, Leader of the Council joined the meeting to update members on the potential implications for Bracknell Forest Council of speculative proposals for local government reorganisation. A number of announcements and press articles had discussed the government’s intention to publish a white paper on devolution and local recovery. The publication had been deferred and was now anticipated in October.

 

The Leader highlighted that it had been indicated that an authority’s minimum size would be determined by population and fluctuating estimates were significantly larger than Bracknell Forest’s current population of 150,000. The Leader noted the possible economies of scale and greater efficiencies moving from two tier governance model.

 

The discussion touched on a number of concerns and considerations including:

·       Overall reduction in Councillors representation

·       Potential significant increase in number of residents supported by each remaining Councillor

·       Potential loss of local knowledge

·       Alternative solutions possible to create unitaries for the Berkshire area e.g. East and West

·       Political implication for the area of merging smaller councils

·       Possibility of an elected Mayor which would instead unify the separate council entities of an area

·       Possible impact of elected Mayor role on current strategic functions such as the fire service and economic development

 

The Leader encouraged all councillors to take an interest in the proposals when they were released but not get distracted from current priorities.

27.

Budget scrutiny - financial update pdf icon PDF 364 KB

Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance and Stuart McKeller, Director of Resources are invited to attend the meeting to discuss the Council’s budget so far this year. Members of the Commission will be able to scrutinise the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the Council’s budgets, how this is being managed and the context for budget setting.

 

The update provided to the Executive on 25 August 2020 on the current year's financial position and future year projections is attached.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance and Stuart McKeller, Director of Resources were invited to attend the meeting. They were asked to discuss the Council’s budget based on the update provided to the Executive on 25 August 2020 on the current year's financial position and future year projections.

 

Councillor Heydon was unable to attend in person but introduced the context for the session via a pre-recorded presentation.

 

Stuart McKeller, Director of Resources updated the report where the situation had changed and responded to members questions:

·         the worst-case projected situation for 2020-21 had reduced from £5.5m to £3m overspend

·         income loss until end of August was £7.6m

·         biggest impacted areas within the budget were Adult Social Care at £1.2m, Children’s Social Care at £1.2m, Leisure at £1m and savings which were unable to be delivered as expected totalling £1.4m

·         for Adult Social Care the national priority was to move people out of hospital so there was an additional cost to block book spaces to avoid delays

·         there was an anticipated rise in children social care referrals on return to education settings

·         the process for developing best and worst-case scenarios was explained

·         transformation programme had been put on pause while resources were redeployed to manage the covid situation; this lack of resources was impacting on the ability to drive through projected transformation savings and was a priority for the Corporate Management Team to consider

·         scale of spend in Adult and Children’s social care was acknowledged as having the most impact on the Council; being the areas that were most complex with elements outside of the Council’s control

·         the Council had a relatively low level of external debt but big infrastructure requirements were not feasible without borrowing

·         restricting the scale of future capital proposals would help manage the level of debt so it did not increase

·         the Council had £18m in its future funding reserve, £2m available in general reserves and further funds to manage the costs of transformation and structural changes

·         details of income compensation scheme had been released and only income that was non-recoverable in the current year could be claimed e.g. Everyone Active management fee

·         sensitivity analysis for proposed increases to fees and charges was more complex than ever and is undertaken service by service

·         reinstatement of car parking fees had not resulted in a change in footfall

·         Council services have largely been reinstated but where this was not possible it was due to safety rather than financial reasons

·         discussion whether council tax capping may be relaxed to help fund current situation

·         explanation that one of the key principles aimed to consolidate the recent growth in social care costs by containing any further increases, seeking real term reductions in order to manage below the level of inflation rather than try to reverse them

·         work was continuing on the detailed service specifications and requirements from providers for the Heathlands project in partnership with the NHS and Clinical Commissioning Group and a report would be considered by the Executive in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 27.

None

28.

Exclusion of the Public and Press

To consider the following motion:

 

That pursuant to section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended, and having regard to the public interest, members of the public and press be excluded from the meeting for consideration of item 9 which involves the likely disclosure of exempt information under the following category of Schedule 12A of that Act:

 

(3)        Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

Minutes:

RESOLVED that pursuant to section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended, and having regard to the public interest, members of the public and press be excluded from the meeting for consideration of item 8 which involved the likely disclosure of exempt information under category 1 of Schedule 12A of that Act:

 

(3)        Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

None

29.

Work Programme Update

The Commission to continue its discussions on the Overview and Scrutiny work programme in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minutes:

The Panel Chairmen provided an update on their Panel activity and proposals for the revised work programme. Though supported in principle, each review would be considered by the Commission once they were scoped.